You may have noticed the lack of posts around here recently (outside of the strength and scotch episodes of course). My absence wasn’t due to a long, luxurious beach vacation though… nope, in my mind, actually something far better. For the past two months I’ve been working alongside renown strength and conditioning coach Scot Prohaska with a group of collegiate athletes. These weren’t just any athletes though, these talented individuals were invited by the NFL to their scouting combine.
For the unacquainted, the combine is the NFL’s proving ground for pro hopefuls. Athletes go through a series of tests including: 40-yard dash, 225lb bench press as many reps as possible, vertical jump, broad jump, 3 cone drill and shuttle run. This year, approximately 300 athletes were invited to the combine to test their strength, skill and mettle.
The first thing I noticed when I met the athletes is how much genetics plays into potential for pro sports. That may seem obvious, but when you’re standing right next to these beasts, it becomes very real. I’m not used to being the smallest guy in a group, scrawniest, maybe – shortest, no. It was also really interesting to see how athletic they were outside their sport. There was a lot of down time in the gym, which meant a lot of horseplay. Frequently the guys would play basketball or have three point contests. One thing they really enjoyed was repping out at 225 on the bench and then running over to drain a 3-pointer. It was wild!
Genetics alone isn’t enough though. There are tens of thousands of collegiate football players and still only about 300 are invited to the combine each year. Beyond natural ability, excellent sport-specific and strength & conditioning coaching are extremely important. On the strength end of things, I was somewhat shocked at their exposure, or lack thereof that is. Many of the guys we worked with were from major college football programs and still their training background was mediocre at best.
I’m not really sure of the reason, I’m guessing that their collegiate strength and conditioning coach was probably spread thin between hundreds of athletes and multiple sports – not able to give these top tier athletes the attention they need. Maybe Rippetoe was right though, most strength and conditioning coaches suck.
Whatever the case, that’s why these players were attending this intensive training camp… to get dialed in for the combine.
The whole operation was pretty crazy. After completing their final season of college ball, the top NFL prospect athletes all sign with agents. The agents (for our group anyway) fly them out to Southern California and put them up in very nice apartments. Their meals are taken care of, their training is paid for, they’re given pocket money – basically totally set up for optimal prep conditions leading up to the combine.
While at the camp, their lives revolve around their training. Four days each week were devoted to lifting and speed work. So, every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday consisted of morning speed work at a local high school football field and afternoon strength work at a large training facility.
Wednesdays and Fridays were recovery focused. Both of these days included very intense “stretching” classes lead by disciples of Guy Voyet (I know the intensity is high because I participated in these sessions… brutal). On top of this, they’d hit the pool on Wednesday mornings. Finally, Sundays were left as complete rest days.
The guys had access to a full time, on site chiropractor and I was tasked with stretching each of them individually with proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) techniques prior to each training session, which was a serious workout for me!
The whole experience was incredibly interesting. Working with guys outside of the CrossFit environment and getting exposure to high level athletes in a sport specific, performance based environment was invaluable. It has already affected the training I provide to my online, comprehensive coaching clients and I recommend any other coaches out there reading this consider getting exposure outside their primary clientele, it will only help to reinforce what you’re doing.